The thing about loss is that it’s inevitable. Everyone goes through it at one point or another.
Earlier this month I lost a close friend; someone who was one of the first people, outside of work, that I met when moving to Oakdale in March of 1993, more than three decades ago.
As fate would have it, my friend Gloria never had children – but she was definitely up for the role of surrogate mom when I moved 3,000 miles away from my east coast home for a new career opportunity.
She just sort of appointed herself to the job. I didn’t have much say in it, but it turns out that she knew what she was doing. In Gloria, I found a mentor, a confidante, truly my best California friend. And we couldn’t have been more different. Gloria was known among her circle of friends as ‘The Princess’ because she had to have things just so; picky could have been her middle name. We used to give her a very hard time about some of her idiosyncrasies and though she originally vehemently denied it, she later embraced her princess-hood. Over the years, she graduated to become known more regularly as the queen, since we felt she aged out of the princess stage.
She was working fulltime when we met, as a secretary at a large accounting firm. I remember how crazy her tax season would be, how difficult it was for her to plan anything when they were in the crunch time for meeting all those IRS-imposed deadlines.
Her husband Bob also worked fulltime and even though they had no children of their own, they opened their home to numerous foreign exchange students through the years. Many stayed in touch, some coming back to visit periodically, all expressing appreciation for the opportunity to become part of Bob and Gloria’s family. My own mom, before her passing, often said she was grateful that Gloria was there for me, filling the role of ‘mom’ as I navigated a new workplace, a new state, and establishing new friendships.
After I got married, when it was time for my daughter to arrive, Gloria was the last one they kicked out of the hospital. They finally got her to leave about midnight, a couple of hours before my daughter was born. But she would be quick to tell you that, after my husband and myself, she was the first one to hold Ally after she was born, returning to the hospital about 6 a.m. and demanding to see us. She couldn’t have been happier; we asked her to be Ally’s godmother and that was a role she took on with gusto. There was nothing Ally couldn’t do in her eyes; and nothing that Gloria wouldn’t do for Ally. She carved out a special place in her life for Ally and when she got to meet Ally’s daughter Lorelei last year, she marveled over the three generations of our family that she has been a part of.
The shared memories of 30 years take up a lot of space, in the heart and in the mind. There were so many fun experiences we enjoyed together, some tragedies we saw each other through; truly leaning on each other in good times and bad. I was her go-to house, dog and bird sitter when she and Bob would have the chance to get away for a quick vacation at Bass Lake or take an extended overseas, multi-country trip to visit their exchange ‘kids’ and enjoy sightseeing.
The thing about friends is you mourn their loss but you never lose the impact they had on you. I am a better person for having known Gloria and am eternally grateful our paths crossed in this life.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at email@example.com or by calling 209-847-3021.